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A real-life Rip Van Winkle, who survived a deadly car crash and then startled the world when he awoke from a 19-year coma and began to speak, has died. Terry Wayne Wallis, 57, passed away Tuesday in Searcy, Ark., an obituary confirms. Wallis was driving with a friend in 1984 when their car plunged into a creek, killing the pal and rendering Wallis a comatose quadriplegic with little hope of recovery. His daughter, Amber, had been born just six weeks before the horrific accident.
Nineteen years later, in June 2003, Wallis opened his eyes and stunned nurses when he asked for his mother and his favorite soft drink.
“He started out with ‘Mom,’ and then it was ‘Pepsi,’ and then it was ‘milk,’” said Alesha Badgley of the Stone County Rehabilitation Center, the Post reported at the time. “Now, it’s anything he wants to say.”
Wallis’ family was overwhelmed by emotion when he finally awoke.
“It’s been hard dealing with it. It’s been hard realizing the man I married can’t be there,” said wife Sandi, who collapsed in tears when he first spoke.
“I couldn’t tell you my first thought; I just fell over on the floor . . . It’s a miracle,” mom Angilee said at the time. She died in 2018.
“His mother and all of his family cared for him relentlessly during his coma and afterwards,” his obituary states.
Wallis’ survivors include dad Jerry Wallis; daughter Amber Wallis; grandchildren Victoria, Blazen and Arrow Wallis; and several siblings, numerous nieces, nephews and extended family.